The film SAW has a lot to answer for. As well as a load of sequels that weren’t up to much, the movie has produced a thirst for torture and horror, inspiring films, games, and books that would never have otherwise existed. There have even been escape room experiences set up where you can try to solve puzzles and escape with your friends or loved ones. Dying: Reborn comes from that world of escape rooms – a world in which you are trapped in a number of different environments and have to solve puzzles to escape. Does it work? Or do you want to lay down and accept the cold, slow death?
You start Dying: Reborn by waking up in a dirty room, with a terrible headache. You see a few paintings on the wall, some boxes, clothes placed on the floor, a couple of locked doors and a curtain across the side of the room. What do you do next? Well, that’s the essence of this first person puzzler as the game gives you clues and items, before leaving you to work through the best way out. In between the puzzling aspects, there’s a story involving you finding your love, Shirley, who seems to have been held captive by a menacing figure who is very much in the vein of the SAW character, Jigsaw. He has devised this puzzle hell that you find yourself in, and he is the one who is very much in control of all the chess pieces.
You move around each room in first person, without either a run or crouch button, which is sometimes annoying as you occasionally want to get a closer look at certain items and can’t. Thankfully there is a cursor that hovers over the items that you can select, allowing you to pick things up, or interact via a puzzle. It is however very tricky to actually zero in on an item and it’s easy to miss the target. I think this might have something to do with the game being made for VR and the control system differences that we are seeing with the standard controller, but I can’t say for sure. But it doesn’t matter too much as it is with the puzzles where the game fizzes.
The puzzle elements of Dying: Reborn are very clever indeed. If you haven’t got a puzzling brain or hate the sight of a crossword in a newspaper, then there is nothing for you to see here as you’re going to hate everything it delivers. There are some really complex algorithms to complete, but the good news is that as you are stuck in a small area, the answer must be in there somewhere. It just takes brain power and time. That’s why the control problems can hamper your progress so much, as you can miss the solution easily and be left scratching your head when really you shouldn’t. The puzzles are however very inventive, weirdly strange and a great homage to those escape rooms and SAW movies.
How long it will take you to solve the puzzles of Dying: Reborn will all depend on how quickly you can get out of each room. I managed to solve all six chapters over a four hour period, but other cleverer gamers out there will no doubt be able to halve that time with ease.
The game looks very nice for a horror title of this type though. Old disused buildings and lighting effects all combine to create mystery and atmosphere, unless you look closely at the detail, when things get a bit rubbish. Once again, in the VR world, the tension would have been amazing, but in this normal mode it just doesn’t feel frightening at all. There are some lovely level designs, especially that found in the office – keep an eye out for the fishing trophies – and it definitely comes with some good effects, but there is nothing we haven’t seen a hundred times before. The sound that accompanies your time in the game can pretty much be split into two unusual halves – with the good and the terrible. The creepy effects are most definitely on the good side, all nicely toned and effective, but the soundtrack is too piercing and annoying, while the voice work is just all wrong.
If you like a good puzzler, then Dying: Reborn is the champion of the conundrum, with twists and brain scratchers that will keep you occupied throughout. The controls are clumsy and don’t quite work right and the soundtrack when combined with the voice over is just plain annoying. But all that said, if you like the idea of being stuck in an escape room and like cerebral horror, then this could be for you.